Schools to phase out early drop-off

Published 9:23 pm Monday, July 17, 2017

Suffolk Public Schools will phase out the early drop-off program in its elementary schools with the goal of eliminating it by next school year.

The program currently allows parents who register for the program to drop off their children 20 to 35 minutes prior to the regular drop-off time.

“The original intent behind this particular initiative was really to assist parents with the transition during that time to a later start time for our elementary schools,” Dr. Latoya Harrison, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said during a presentation in last week’s School Board meeting.

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The program started in 2013-14, when the elementary school schedule was changing for a second year in a row.

“We changed the bus schedule one year, and then the very next year we changed it again,” Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney said during the School Board meeting. “Some families had adapted their work schedule, so the thought was, as opposed to having to go back to their employer and adjust their work schedule, we would offer this.”

However, during recent discussions about teacher workload, the early drop-off program was brought up several times, Harrison said. It is an additional duty for teachers, usually on a rotating basis, and takes away from what would otherwise be planning time in the morning, Harrison said. Teacher assistants who help with the program have fewer hours available for classroom work.

There are varying levels of usage of the program, Harrison said. Only a dozen students are registered to use it at Oakland Elementary School. Fewer than three dozen are registered at Driver Elementary School, and only 10 attend regularly. However, 100 are registered at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, with 60 attending regularly, and 90 are registered at Creekside Elementary School, with most of those attending on any given day.

The early drop-off time is 8:30 a.m. At Elementary A schools, the regular drop-off time is 8:50 a.m.; it’s 9:05 a.m. at Elementary B schools. School starts at 9:20 a.m. at A schools and 9:35 a.m. at B schools.

Harrison said the school district plans to phase out the program starting this year.

“Beginning this school year, we are proposing a reduction in the number of spaces in the program and limiting the program to currently enrolled families,” she said.

In addition, parents will be asked to provide verification that they need the program for their work schedule.

All elementary schools offer paid before-school programs through the YMCA or Suffolk Parks and Recreation; most schools offer both. Harrison said tuition assistance and registration fee waivers may be available, depending on the program.

Parents who want to use the program this year need to apply by Aug. 18. Principals have sent letters to all families notifying them of the change, including applications for currently enrolled families.

“They have had time to make additional or alternative arrangements, as well as making certain we have some type of paid program in each of our schools,” Whitney said during Thursday’s meeting. “We want to work with families and give them time to plan accordingly. This is what we’d like to do so that parents can be prepared and come up with that alternative plan.”